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2017 Tick Forum

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Tick forum panelists, left to right: Bruce Harrison, Steve Seagle,
Marcia Herman-Giddens, Ken Knight, and Graham Hickling


On Friday, April 28th, the Chatham County Public Health Department hosted the 2017 Tick Forum to discuss issues around ticks and tick-borne illness in North Carolina, with a focus on Chatham County. The event featured presentations by local, state, and national experts on these issues and was well attended by local and regional residents and stakeholders interested in learning more about mitigating tick-related issues. Presentation topics included tick-borne illness burden in North Carolina, history of ticks, deer population management, impacts of deer management on tick-borne illness, and land use impacts on the tick population. Recordings of the presentations and their accompanying slide decks can be found below.

Chatham County Health Director Layton Long opened the forum.


Tick-borne Disease Overview

Carl Williams, DVM, DACVPM
State Public Health Veterinarian, North Carolina Division of Public Health

Dr. Williams, State Public Health Veterinarian, gave the first presentation of the forum, which provided an overview of the tick-borne illnesses (TBIs) that are tracked by the Division of Public Health. His presentation includes case definitions for the different TBIs that are transmitted in North Carolina, which generally include both clinical criteria and laboratory evidence. Dr. Williams then showed TBI incidence by year and month, as well as distribution across the state. 


Chatham County Ticks: There is No Quick Fix

Bruce A. Harrison, PhD, LTC, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Taxonomist/Public Health Entomologist

Dr. Harrison, who has spent his career studying ticks in North Carolina, presented on the most common ticks and TBIs in the Piedmont region. He noted that the Lone Star tick is “currently the most important pest and vector tick species in NC” and the source of numerous diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and STARI, as well as the Alpha-gal allergy, which can cause an allergic reaction to mammal meat. He emphasized that controlling ticks remains difficult and there are now more types of pathogens that infect humans. However, there are now public health entomologists at many universities across the state and in the Division of Public Health, though state funds for vector control remain limited.


Deer Restoration and Management in North Carolina and Chatham County

Ken Knight
Supervising Wildlife Biologist
, NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Mr. Knight’s presentation provided a background of the growth in the deer population in North Carolina and an overview of deer restoration (i.e., deer stocking) efforts in the twentieth century, which resulted in a tremendous increase in deer density throughout much of the state. He provided charts showing growth in the seasonal deer harvest in Chatham from nearly zero in the mid-seventies to over 3,000 by the nineties. He pointed out deer regulations in the county, such as maximum deer harvested per season and the length of the season. He also noted the relationship between urbanization and hunting as well as deer management.

Video coming soon.


Impacts of Deer Management on Tick-borne Illness

Dr. Graham Hickling
Center for Wildlife Health
, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Dr. Hickling’s presentation focused on potential wildlife host management strategies to reduce the burden of ticks and tick-borne illness. He pointed out the marked expansion of the deer population over the past fifty years and noted the important role deer play as hosts for multiple tick species. Dr. Hickling highlighted three overarching strategies for tick-borne disease control, namely personal protection (e.g., clothing, repellents, tick checks), habitat management (such as mowing and yard sprays), and wildlife host management. He weighed the pros and cons of several wildlife host management strategies based on recent research, including Acaricide treatment, fencing, and deer population reduction, concluding that the costs associated with these strategies likely outweigh the benefits, and many face questions in terms of feasibility. Thus, focusing on personal protection and habitat management may be more effective in reducing the burden of TBIs.

Video coming soon.


The Personal Side of Tick Borne Illness

Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Tick-borne Infections Council of North Carolina, Inc.

As the lunch time speaker Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens discussed the personal impacts of tick borne illness on local residents as well as some interesting initial findings from a Chatham County Public Health Department Tick Awareness Survey that was conducted with the students and faculty of Central Carolina Community College Chatham, Lee, and Harnett campuses.   


Land Use and Land Cover as a Template for Tick Populations

Dr. Steve Seagle
Department of Biology
, Appalachian State University

Dr. Seagle’s talk covered the relationship between land-use patterns and the tick population, emphasizing the effect different land cover can have on tick habitats. Of note was the finding that areas with greater interspersion of housing developments and forest, such as many suburban areas, are more conducive to the spread of TBIs such as Lyme disease than areas of higher-density development where forest is clustered in one area. That is, minimizing the borders or “edges” between development and forest can potentially reduce TBI incidence. Dr. Seagle pointed out that there is likely no “silver bullet” for TBI management in Chatham County, and successful management strategies should integrate human, economic, ecological, and environmental dimensions.

Video coming soon.

To view the slides of this presentation, please click HERE.


Presenter Panel

Bruce Harrison, Steve Seagle, Marcia Herman-Giddens, Ken Knight, and Graham Hickling